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I've been plugging away at this blog for 5 years or so, and I finally got the ultimate reward of blogging: FREE TOOLS!
A representative from Keson got in touch with me a few weeks back and asked if I'd like a free SOLA level to review. It looks like Keson is taking over the distribution of SOLA products in the USA, and they wanted to get the word out about their product.

I've had my levels for 20-odd years and they're getting pretty beat up, so I jumped at the chance.
They bravely sent it to me in just a cardboard mailing tube. The level came with a handwritten note that said,
If our levels can survive the Postal Service, they can definitely thrive on the job site.
Ha! Well put. And it did come through in good shape.

Out of the box, the first thing I noticed was the bright red color. It's easy to lose tools on a busy job site, so this will be easy to find.
I also noticed the rubber end caps.
Let me explain why this is great: when you're hanging a picture on a Sheetrock wall (for example) you have to be careful if you're using a solid metal level. One hard bump and you've dinged the wall and have to patch the ding.
No dings here, because I'm a pro, baby!
Anyway, the rubber end caps will make my job a little easier. Also, I can casually set it down on a floor without making a big loud CLANK, and it's easier on the level. So if you're sensitive about being careful with your level like I am, you'll be able to relax a little bit.

But the real star of the show is SOLA's patented vial technology. For one thing, the liquid in each vial is bright green with a big, clear bubble that stands out well and is easy to see. My vision isn't what it used to be, and I'm usually too busy to fool with eyeglasses when I'm on a job site, so this is a nice touch. And the shading on either side heightens the visibility as well.
Also notice that the horizontal vial is notched into the side. On most levels you have to look through a little hole in the side, kind of like a port hole, and it gets kind of tricky to see, especially when you're holding it over your head. This one will be much easier to use.
And then there's this:
I assume this machined side has an important function, like resisting dings so your straight-edge stays straight. But I also like it because it's shiny.
Since it's been awhile since I went shopping for one of these, I dropped by the local Big Box hardware store to see what the competition looks like. I didn't see anything of the same quality. Certainly none of them had the little green vials with the great big bubble.

However, the Big Box levels had one thing in their favor: at about $15 to $50 in price, they cost a little less than the Big Red, which runs at about $57 according to Google. So if you're just starting to build your tool kit and need to cut costs, this might not be the right level for you.

But the bottom line is that the SOLA Big Red Spirit Level lives up to its reputation: it's the equivalent of a custom red Karmen Ghia with a chrome-lined engine.
Totally sweet.

If you need a handyman with all the tools, give us a call. We've got them.
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One of our customers just moved to Asheville and bought a beautiful new luxury home on the banks of the French Broad river.

But luxury is in the details, and in this case one or two details were missing. For example, the cabinets were very stylish, but when you opened them up, they just had a shelf inside. Things kept getting lost in the back, and you had to dig around for them.
She had me replace the shelves with pull-out drawers. Now it's easy to see what's in the back.
Something like this would be a really nice Mother's Day gift for your mom or spouse. No need for them to get down on their hands and knees on the hard tile floor every time they're looking for the dish soap. They can just pull the drawer out and it's right there in front of them.

Plus, these are soft-close drawers, so the kids can't slam them shut, and nothing gets knocked over or jarred around.

While I was there, I added another great little improvement: an extra cabinet and a valet rod in the laundry room. The rod is over the sink, so the homeowner can hang her handwashables here to dry and the excess water will just drip right down into the drain.
If your laundry room is inefficient and hard to work in, give us a call. We can add counters,  cabinets and drawer pull-outs to make washing clothes easy and maybe even fun.

Like this pretty walnut counter which we installed over a customer's washer and dryer, so no more socks will get lost behind the machines.
Plus, a good-looking laundry room adds a lot to your home value for a very modest investment. So give us a ring.
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One of our customers just moved to Asheville and bought a beautiful new luxury home on the banks of the French Broad river.

But luxury is in the details, and in this case one or two details were missing. For example, the cabinets were very stylish, but when you opened them up, they just had a shelf inside. Things kept getting lost in the back, and you had to dig around for them.
She had me replace the shelves with pull-out drawers. Now it's easy to see what's in the back.
Something like this would be a really nice Mother's Day gift for your mom or spouse. No need for them to get down on their hands and knees on the hard tile floor every time they're looking for the dish soap. They can just pull the drawer out and it's right there in front of them.

Plus, these are soft-close drawers, so the kids can't slam them shut, and nothing gets knocked over or jarred around.

While I was there, I added another great little improvement: an extra cabinet and a valet rod in the laundry room. The rod is over the sink, so the homeowner can hang her handwashables here to dry and the excess water will just drip right down into the drain.
If your laundry room is inefficient and hard to work in, give us a call. We can add counters,  cabinets and drawer pull-outs to make washing clothes easy and maybe even fun.

Like this pretty walnut counter which we installed over a customer's washer and dryer, so no more socks will get lost behind the machines.
Plus, a good-looking laundry room adds a lot to your home value for a very modest investment. So give us a ring.
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The other day I had an epiphany: it's not worth your time or money to try to fix a faucet.

It all started because my bathroom faucet was acting up. First it clogged up so that less water came out when I turned it on. Of course I removed the aerator and cleaned out the grit that had accumulated there.

But when I put it back together, I noticed water dripping behind the sink. Naturally as a handyman I messed with it for half an hour or more, shining flashlights into corners, tightening things, and bumping my head against the sink. (Ouch!)
I never did find the source of the leak. My guess is that the back pressure caused by the clogged aerator ruptured a hidden seal. Or maybe the same grit that caused the clog caused a problem somewhere else.

So I stopped by Lowe's and bought a replacement. The old faucet cost $25, but this time I splurged and spent $29 for something with style.

It only took 15 minutes to swap out the new faucet for the old, and I have peace of mind because I doubt it will leak any time soon.

I've tried to fix faucets for customers in the past and not had much luck. Sometimes I'm able to tighten them and stop the drip, but it usually starts dripping again later. I've known plumbers who had the same experience.

Long story short: if your faucet drips, replace it. It's another example of spending money now to save money later. Because a second visit from a plumber is expensive, especially if the new leak has damaged your cabinets and floors.
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Here's a problem that comes up around this time of year.

Make sure you take your garden hose off of the hose bib... even if you have a "frost free" spigot. The freezing temperatures can still cause them to leak.

Frost-free valves have a built-in siphon which draws the water back up the pipe a few feet into the relative warmth of your home. It seems that if there's a full hose attached, the siphon doesn't make a difference because it's just sucking up more water.

And these spigots are tricky to replace.  Depending on the kind of pipe you have, you may even need a plumber.

If you haven't done this yet, it may be too late here in Asheville. If you think your spigot was damaged by the cold, look for a cutoff valve so that you can turn the water off behind the spigot.
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As a trim carpenter, I'm always looking for new ways to do a better job. One of the problems I regularly run into is breaking caulk lines, and I think I've finally found a solution.

When I install trim, I caulk it where it meets the wall so that it looks continuous with the wall. If the caulk breaks, as it often does due to the natural movement of the wooden trim, it leaves a dark gap.

Here's an example via Allan Bailey, one of the craftsmen in our network. On the left you can see trim which was installed a long time ago, where the caulk lines have all broken. In this example, the problem was caused by moisture from a poorly sealed shower door, but it can also happen when new trim is installed and dries out as it adjusts to the local humidity.
On the right, you can see where Allan has re-caulked and painted the trim. It looks much better, doesn't it?

Caulk lines have such a high tendency to break that we don't warranty them on handyman work. But I do like to do things right, warranty or not, and that's where Big Stretch comes in.
Image via sashco.com
It's a new product by Sashco which supposedly resists moving and cracking. Here's a video to show the difference. (Warning: it's a little bit corny.)
See how Big Stretch caulking outstretches the competition! - YouTube
I've been putting Big Stretch to the test on some of the built-in furniture projects I've finished lately. On most of these projects, my goal is to install a piece that looks like it's part of the home, like these two benches which I installed on either side of an existing fireplace.
So far Big Stretch has held up well.
The only drawback I noticed is that although Sashco says Big Stretch is "easy to install, even for a novice," I find it to be a little trickier to work with than regular caulk.

I usually like to go over my caulk lines with my fingertip to smooth them out. You can do that with Big Stretch, but you only have a few chances to get it right before it starts boogering up.

But overall I'd give this a "thumbs up" rating. The superior performance outweighs the slight difficulty of installation.

If you're looking for a handyman who loves to do things right, give us a call. We've got a whole network of craftsmen who are at least as picky as me.
​I was not compensated for this review.
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Today I thought I'd show off a project from our sister page, Artisan Built-ins.

This is a set of bookshelves in an offset modern pattern, with integrated brass lights to showcase the books. To the right is a built-in windowseat with a flip-top lid to allow for storage.
It really transformed the room, which started as a blank canvas.
We designed these for the homeowner based on a previous design which we did for another customer. The uprights on both bookcases are staggered to avoid the "tic tac toe" look which you see in traditional shelving.
This project
Inspiration photo
We actually finished these a few months ago, but this is the first time we've seen photos of it with the books, and the custom cushions on the windowseat. It looks like a great place to relax with a good novel.
If you've always wanted a library of your own, give us a call. We'll help you take your room from "Blah" to "Beautiful."
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Would you buy a house with mustard yellow walls?
Living room
Dining room
One of my customers recently bought a home near downtown Asheville with walls the exact color of my favorite condiment for a ham sandwich.
Somehow it's more appetizing on the food than it is on the wall. (Side note: I've got to stop blogging at lunch time. Now all I can think about is ham sandwiches.)

Anyway.

Take a look at the living room now. I think I could live here, don't you?
They had us paint the dining room in a cool mint green which really set off the white trim. I like it. It's kind of retro.
The master bedroom also had an unusual color: a deep navy blue. I usually like dark blue walls, but for some reason it was oppressive in this room.
My customers tried several colors, including the green from the dining room, before they settled on a soft dove gray.
It's a very different room.

The moral of the story is that when you're house-hunting, pay no attention to the color on the walls. Repainting is comparatively cheap, and while everyone else is stuck on superficial impressions, you can focus on more important things like the layout of the rooms and whether the home was well-maintained.

If your home needs a fresh coat of paint, give us a call. We'll be happy to give you a free estimate.
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I'm excited to announce that we've added a new craftsmen to our network: my neighbor Frank Dapkus.

Frank recently moved to the Asheville area, which is lucky for all of us, because he's an excellent handyman with a wide range of talents. He's also a really nice guy!

One of Frank's talents is tile installation. Check out this shower installation with glass walls and a tiled bench:
I really appreciate his attention to detail: the diagonally-set drain, the perfectly even tiles and smooth grout lines, and the tiled niche in the wall all come together to make a beautiful design.

​Here's the other side of the same room:
The tiled floor has been installed with the same attention to perfection.

Frank is also a talented trim carpenter and cabinet maker. One of my favorite projects of his is this set of handmade cabinet doors:
This cabinet next to a fireplace also caught my eye:
Before
After
What a great way to hide your television! And it looks like it was built with the home, which is one of my criteria for great cabinetry.

When he's not working as a local handyman, Frank spends his free time turning beautiful wooden bowls like these:
I really like the way he uses stain to create bands of color on the outsides of the bowls. He has a nice, subtle aesthetic.

​You can shop for more of these bowls on his website at www.autumnwoodbowls.com.

We're really glad to welcome Frank to our network. If you need someone to install tiles in your Asheville home, please give us a call.
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One of our customers is a work-from-home mom with a couple of kids. She recently bought a home with a separate office, but it didn't have a door which she could close to keep out household noises during conference calls.
The opening was something of a challenge, because it was taller than a standard pair of French doors. We added a custom glass transom to fill the extra space, and capped the whole unit off with trim to match the rest of the home.
One of the little debates we had was how to keep the doors closed.

The standard solution for indoor use is to have a pair of dummy knobs and a ball catch.
The nice thing about this setup is that you don't have to fool around with turning a knob or sliding a latch. You can just burst through the doors like a rock star.
Unfortunately some consider the latch itself to be somewhat noisy... and of course it's hard to lock the door to prevent intrusions during an important meeting.

Another solution is to use a slide latch at the top or bottom of one of the doors. This can be tricky if you want to use both doors, because you have to reach up or down and pull on the latch to open the door. It also costs more to install.

​But it's quieter, and it's lockable.
In the end, the customer decided on the slide latch.
If you need someone to install an interior door in Asheville, we'll be happy to help.
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